A glum looking ZAB with his "mentor" after the signing of the Tashkent Agreement in Jan 1966
The article was written in response to Mr Ejaz Haider’s article It’s not just Mr Tharoor! maligning Pakistan’s civilian leadership and perpetuating the lies about the 1965 Indo-Pak war that continue to occupy our textbooks. The article originally written on 27 July 2011 has been posted to commemorate the event.
“6 September, 1965 ki alas-subbah, Hindustan nay baghair ailanya jang ki, Lahore par hamla kar diya” [Translation – In the wee hours of 6 September, 1965 Hindustan launched an attack on Lahore without a prior declaration of war]
Or so read the text-books of the consolidated subject of Pakistan Studies, that I read, and coming generations would be forced to read too. Please note the deliberate use of “Hindustan” instead of the 23 constitutionally recognized official names of India, a term charlatan historians and lackeys of the old apparatus use to distinguish the Hindu-Muslim existence of the two nations. (Edit: Urdu newspapers in India also use Hindustan instead of the official Jamhuriya-e-Bharat, it’s a cultural adaptation immersed in the language)
This single sentence in our text books covers more than just the launch of a war. It is emblematic of the perpetual lies that have been spread in our history books, symbolic of how adventurism, mostly failed, has been covered up so that the adventurers could continue to claim moral and intellectual superiority and is representative of a major flaw that ails our society. A common anecdote, often written down too, is that Brigadiers from the Indian Army had planned to have breakfast at Barki. The history books, the accounts on television, the anecdotes, the verbal recitals from right wing “intellectuals” goes that the war was ostensibly thrust upon Pakistan by cunning, nefarious, hungry India. When it was not.
“Jihad” and adventurism have a long history in Pakistan. Right after independence, we sent armed raiders into Kashmir to “liberate” it and after the British General commanding our army refused to do so, the armed raiders looted and raped on their way. Our adventures even attracted an American soldier called Russel K. Haight who fought with, and commanded, some of the raiders during the war. Despite all the 1947-8 war remains the only when where we were able to achieve some of our goals, having annexed part of the land and having won a UN resolution on a free and fair referendum in Kashmir, that we value so dearly even today.
But, the war that we “won” (in 1965) ended all hopes of the international community ever supporting us in Kashmir. The “win” of course is a lie as well. It was a stalemate at best, where we were on the edgier side. The war was launched by Pakistan, not India in August and it is time to remember what happened, contextualize and correct some of the fiction written down by Ejaz Haider in an opinion sometime back.
After some favourable results in the skirmishes of the Runn of Kutch in mid of 1965, Pakistan’s bloated ambitions led to the disaster that was Operation Gibraltar (something our books fail to remember of course). Ayub having noted that “as a general rule Hindu morale would not stand more than a couple of blows delivered at the right time and place. Such opportunities should, therefore, be sought and exploited”, Pakistan prepared to send in the “Gibraltar Force” to wage a guerrilla war in Kashmir. Comprised of Salahuddin Force, Ghaznavi Force, Tariq Force, Babar Force, Qasim Force, Khalid Force, Nusrat Force, Sikandar Force and Khilji Force, estimating a total of around five to seven thousand people (Indians claim a gigantic, unrealistic figure of 30,000 men), the plan was an immense failure and led to huge loss of life.
As Colonel S G Mehdi, the commander of the SSG just before the start of the war said about Gibraltar, “the plan was so childish, so bizarre as to be unacceptable to logical, competent, professionally sound military persons anywhere in the world” and Mehdi’s reward was being posted out of the SSG for disagreeing with the “competent” assessment of his seniors (he said the plan would have been “a fiasco greater than the ‘Bay of Pigs’ operation”).
The Army’s closest version of an official historian, Maj Gen Shaukat Raza, has amongst others tried to put all the blame of the 1965 war on Foreign Minister Bhutto and Foreign Secretary Aziz Ahmed. Bhutto’s warring habits – again in contrast to being socially liberal – do not even require debate, but to imagine that a Minister and a bureaucrat could push an entire military apparatus, a Field Marshal/President, a General and the entire GHQ, to war is unimaginable and laughable. After all, it was the GHQ’s job to make realistic predictions about the success of an armed invasion and to prepare for a response from the enemy. If they could not do their own job, and were relying on a civilian and a bureaucrat to do that, one wonders what it says about their own capabilities. A funny fiction created remains that Bhutto assured the generals that India would never attack from the Lahore sector either. One wonders what the creators of these fictional stories think about us, the people, that we are willing to blame Bhutto for the war hearing these stories, and not wonder what it says about the ability and command performance of our “only institution”. The reality is that the war was as much a product of DGMO Gul Hasan and Akhtar Husain Malik’s, as it was Bhutto’s and Ahmed’s.
Pakistan’s intelligence failures, having come to spotlight recently in Kakul, have a long history to them too. In 1965, it was the DG IB, the legendary Aijaz Baksh Awan, who was relied upon to deliver a message about the invasion and start of guerrilla war to Sheikh Abdullah and garner his support (which Ayub decided against later). Pakistan’s intelligence apparatus, the ISI and the MI, completely failed to give accurate analyses of the level of support armed intruders would enjoy. When the planned guerrilla war failed, and All India Radio played the interviews of some of the raiders, DG MI Brig Irshad is reported to have said, “The bastards have spilt the beans”. It was a miracle that Pakistan survived 1965, much credit to the PAF’s legendary operations, after we were caught unaware and off guard in the Lahore sector. Brig Irshad even dismissed a crucial piece of evidence that could have pointed towards India’s approaching tank divisions in Sialkot. A military dispatcher caught on the Jammu-Pathankot road was carrying information about the approaching attack. Summarily sent to MI HQ via a Cessna L19, it was dismissed as an Indian deception and plant and we continued to imagine the 1st Armoured Division to be at another location entirely. It was our luck that Indian commanders mistook a tank regiment for a tank division at Chawinda even after we were unable to locate a tank division where the convoy is reported to have been at least a hundred mile long, from head to tail. The news of the imminent attack at Lahore was caught from a Radio Jammu transmission (brilliant intelligence source, I must insist), and all forward formations having retreated to the cantonments, the Punjab Rangers were the only ones left to confront the Indians and DG Rangers went around alerting formations in his sleeping suit.
Ayub Khan had meanwhile manufactured a cult around him and his figure loomed large over the government. But the self-styled Field Marshal was an incompetent soldier to the core. Gohar Ayub has tried to fudge history by lying that Ayub was an active soldier during World War II with the Assam Regiment. In fact, Ayub never had any war experience in his entire career and a below par record. During WWII, he was with the Chamar Regiment that was disbanded soon after war. During the War of 1947-8, he was in East Pakistan, far away from the war. He was made the Commander in Chief (CnC) only after the man selected to succeed the British general was killed in an air-crash and he was selected above others like Maj Gen Nazir and Maj Gen Majid because of his closeness to Iskander Mirza, who was Defence Secretary. Ayub would later get Nazir involved in the Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case on flimsy evidence and force him into retirement. With Mirza, he would later formulate our policies of the Cold War, twist and manipulate the politics of the land, and ultimately exile him and take over. He was, all historians conclude, not a proponent of war with India during his rule, but this was due to a host of reasons including the fact that he was a poor decision maker when it came to the subject of war. His own handpicked CnC, Gen Musa Khan’s terrible command performance during 1965 is available for all to read. Ayub was a man of such impeccable morals that besides rigging the election against Fatima Jinnah, in an already manufactured franchise, he called her an Indian agent. The moral superiority is for all to witness.
1971 is something that no one even need to be reminded of. Having grounded war heroes like M M Alam for being Bengalis, pompous warriors aimed to eliminate the decades long Bengali grievances through the power of the barrel, having done so in Balochistan already (and trying to do so today as well). At surrender, the Chief of Staff of the Eastern Command, Brig Baqir Siddiqui, after having laid down his weapons to Indian soldiers termed it, “It’s all right. It’s part of the game, I suppose”. The Commander in Chief of the Army and the self appointed President of Pakistan was meanwhile busy partying with his lot. The theory of “defence of the east, lies in the west” was shattered completely, and as our forces surrendered, Yahya was busy holding nude parties, only to address the nation later, completely drunk, and full of lies noting that East Pakistan had been given in safe custody of India temporarily.
Adventurism of course would never stop. In the history of warfare, Kargil will be remembered as a spectacular failure, even as Musharraf & Co, repeats the “military genius” of their plan to cut off the supply routes. The Prime Minister was not informed prior to launching the assault, Air and Naval chiefs were completely out of the loop and not informed either, and as beautifully concluded by one of PAF’s legendary poster-boys Air Commodore Kaiser Tufail, it was again “a case of not having enough dissenters”. Such were the lies we wanted others to believe that we claimed that the people on the mountains were not our soldiers, but “mujahideen” beyond our control. It is a sad reflection on our history that as our newly crowned Foreign Minister arrived in New Delhi for talks, India was celebrating “victory” in Kargil with military parades.
Musharraf himself has admitted that at the time of Kargil, Pakistan did not have any operational nuclear delivery systems. We were in fact playing a dangerous bluff.
Having pushed a billion and a half people to the brink of nuclear war, even the aim of “internationalizing the Kashmir issue” as the robots of the Foreign Office claimed, was a failure. Pakistan has time and again presented itself to the world as a trigger happy, impulsive, wannabe bully who wishes to take back Kashmir by the power of the barrel, failing every time. Our moral claims to Kashmir are negatively affected by our adventures, if anything. The proxy war of the ‘90s only alienated another generation of Kashmiris who saw Pakistan sponsored militant outfits assassinating locals as well, and spreading fear. Besides giving us an infection of Jihadi-itis (which Gen Musharraf himself faced with one of his would be assassins coming from Jaish-e-Muhammad), it has shaped our national mindset in a way that the entire populace believes military prowess is the way to annex Kashmir. A major media house owner wishes to be strapped to a nuclear bomb and dropped on an Indian city. A red cap wearing rouser of the couched, young upper middle class wants to deliver India a message through war, to plant a flag and transmit Radio Pakistan from the Red Fort in Delhi.
In a series of rebuttals of rebuttals of rebuttals, Ejaz Haider has now painted a very disingenuous portrait of the nature of civilian and military efforts at peace with India. Any peace talks and peace moves towards India during the tenure of our martial saviours has been solely because when given the rule directly, they were forced to face the real cost of constant war with India. When they rule by proxy, from the shadows, and fire from the shoulders of our elected representatives, they do not see and do not want to see the economic and social cost of perpetual war that this protracted conflict instills on our nation. The peacemaker called General Musharraf, the same one who launched Kargil, when in power was forced to extend a handshake to India, only to become alienated by his own corps commanders who were not happy with Agra (they were not forced to see the economic cost directly after all, again, but Musharraf was).
We were promised that conventional weapons would not be necessary, once we sacrificed our food, houses, health and education to build a bomb. We did build it, but on both sides of the border, conventional weapons are being amassed at an unmatched rate. We are today producing more nuclear warheads that any other country (so as to amass as many as we can before the FMCT comes into action). Pakistan and India both have enough warheads to destroy the entire region, many times over. In the last few years, PAF has gone on a buying spree like never before, F-16s, AWACS, Aerial Refuelling Tankers (!), et al. The Navy is buying frigates, anti-submarine warfare aircraft, expensive planes that are against all security precautions parked outside hangers and can be destroyed by terrorists, and planning to buy nuclear armed submarines. The PAF bought four VIP Embraer Phenom 100 jets and the Navy, four Hawker 850 Executive jets (supposed to double for “information warfare” as well). Forget the floods and the millions displaced, we are preparing for some war that we cannot pay for. The point is, we cannot afford an arms race, irrespective of Indian procurement or plans. This does not mean accepting Indian hegemony in the region, or support for disbanding the armed forces. It simply means we need avenues beyond weapons build up to secure our future.
A military is not designed to perpetuate theories of peace or act as an institute of pacifism. The sole purpose of it’s existence is organized defence of a nation and to launch an offensive when required. That is what it is for, and that is what it should do. While there may be a large number of Indian hawks and liberals who would want a group of Pakistanis to collaborate with them to disarm the Pakistani Armed Forces, it is not something Pakistanis have ever wished to do. However, anybody who speak the word of peace is bound to be labeled anti-this, anti-that, he is not a ‘realist’ after all. Adventurism is instilled in the blood of a Pakistani general it seems. It is not a bad trait to have personally. Without an adventurous, inquisitive and explorative mind, mankind would never have progressed. But un-adultered adventurism in the battlefield in the face of non-existent devil’s advocacy, let alone honest criticism, is mortally dangerous. We should have learnt that one more than one occasion, but we have failed to.
Many of our soldiers recorded tales of bravery in 1965, like they have done during each and every war. Failure of the higher direction of war has been so spectacular that they have died almost always died in vain. Incompetence has never been duly punished. Adventurers have flourished. Brig Irshad’s spectacular failures in 1965 proved no obstacle in his promotion and in 1971 he was commanding the strike corps at Mangla. The mid-battle change of Akhtar Hussain Malik with Yahya that led to the failure to capture Akhnur was just another blip in the sordid history of command failures. In 1984, the Indian Army infiltrated 35 miles into Pakistan’s claimed territory in Siachen after terming our inclusion of the disputed territory in our maps as “cartographic aggression”. Maj Gen Zaheer ul Islam Abbasi, of failed Operation Khilafat coup attempt of 1995, when GOC FCNA in 1991 launched a disastrous attack in the Chulung sector which resulted in numerous casualties, including loss of a chopper that was carrying the local brigade commander, Brig Masood Anwari. Instead of being tried and dismissed for acting on his own since the Army claimed that the Chief had no knowledge of such a planned attack, Abbasi was promoted to Maj Gen and made DG Infantry. The Hamood ur Rehman Commission did not lead to the trial of anyone. It is a history of failure after failure, and only the people pay the price.
Domestically, it is impossible for politicians on either side to move beyond existing positions and they cannot risk proposing any radical solution to the conflict as it is tied heavily to nationalistic sentiments and ideologies. While one Prime Minister might be more forthcoming than the other about the need to settle the dispute and resumption of frozen dialogue, never have leaders on either side advocated abandoning the demands over Kashmir. For all practical purposes, domestic politics has absolutely no effect on the Kashmir policy. The difference is that while India has its hawks and bellicose commentators, and warmongers, the country has been controlled by people who more or less controlled the desires of such people. India has shown aggressive plans (1984, Brasstacks, Cold Start rhetoric) but it is us who have been the aggressors more frequently. India has an entire arsenal prepared for us, but it prepares for China too. India has little ambition to annex us, and those in India who want Pakistan to be eliminated do not hold the reins of power. It was an aging, wise Indian leader of a Hindu dominated party and a Prime Minister of Pakistan, who would later be tried, jailed and exiled, who signed the Lahore declaration that was a momentous step towards peace. All their efforts were sabotaged by the adventures of a General and his coterie. Sartaj Aziz recounts in his book the disappointment of Vajapayee and Jaswant Singh when he faced them after Kargil was launched.
Even today it is Sharif who says we must stop treating India as a mortal as existential enemy, and when Asif Zardari says Pakistan would be ready to commit to a no first use policy (of nuclear weapons), he is rebuffed and his legs pulled by those who are his subservient.
Ayub Khan, in a note during 1965 said that the aim of the war was to “weaken India’s resolve and bring her to a conference table without provoking a general war”. It translated into full scale war, a military stalemate and the only conference table India was brought was in Tashkent where the Soviet Union negotiated a peace agreement, just two weeks into the war. Pakistan had been more than just optimistic about its own military capabilities. Ejaz concludes his belligerent article by trying to make fun of Indians for being sissies, as they “crawled on their bellies when Mrs Indira Gandhi slapped her two-year emergency rule”. For the likes of him bearing decades of military dictatorships is an honour it seems, Sorry Sir! We do not want such honours, thank you!